Medical Building Development Moving Forward

By Mike Fourcher | Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The current building at 1325 W. Belmont Ave. Credit: Mike Fourcher

After months of wrangling between the developer and community leaders, it looks like construction on a medical office building for Northwestern Memorial Hospital is beginning to move forward at 1325 W. Belmont Ave.

The South Lakeview Neighbors Association (SLNA) is holding a public meeting Tuesday night with Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) to discuss a plan that would allow rezoning the property from M1-2 to a B3-5 classification by including a restrictive covenant in the new zoning ordinance.

Chicago zoning code says an M1-2 zoning classification is, “to accommodate low-impact manufacturing, wholesaling, warehousing and distribution activities that occur within enclosed buildings.” The dash-2 sets a 2.2 floor-to-area ratio, the amount of floor space allowed to total land area on the property. A B3-5 classification is meant for, “a very broad range of retail and service uses, often in the physical form of shopping centers or larger buildings,” and, “will generally be destination-oriented, with a large percentage of customers arriving by automobile.” The dash-5 designation calls for a 5 floor-to-area ratio.

As proposed, the three-story, 63,000-square-foot brick building would include an urgent care center, a roof garden, first-floor retail space and 57 parking spaces.

“The covenant is so the neighborhood group will get everything [they] wanted,” said Ald. Scott Waguespack. “I think what we decided to do with the neighbors is to go with the classification with the B3-5 and the covenant that will give us what we wanted with the [original] planned development.” [Download a rendering of the proposed building - PDF.]

The original planned development called for a floor-to-area ratio of 3. The dash-5 designation is necessary to accommodate some of the development’s parking needs.

The restrictive covenant concept comes after SLNA voted against two previous development proposals from MedProperties. The original design called for a 70-foot tall building. The neighbors voted against that proposal 38-2, according to SNLA President, David Duggan.

“Then they went back to the drawing board and scaled it back down to 50 feet. Then there were issues with the parking,” said Duggan. “The initial proposal for the 70+ foot building was for 80 slots. When they brought it down to 50 feet [the parking was] brought down to 65 slots.”

After those changes, SLNA met in November and voted against the development again, 45 to 13. “There were concerns about traffic on Belmont,” said Duggan.

“I got about ten opposition letters in November,” said Ald. Waguespack. “But we chopped off some things and made changes to ingress and egress.”

Rendering of the proposed building at 1325 W. Belmont Ave. (click to enlarge) From MedProperties.

“It’s better than the original proposal that we had about 3 years ago,” said Ald. Waguespack. “I think that when you look at bringing it down and the work we did with the neighbors to bring it into compliance with the area it’s a pretty good project.”

“They have down-scaled and down-scaled and down-scaled that project,” said Joe Semerling, who heads up SLVN’s neighborhood development and review committee.

“That project that they’re doing is going to be within the dash-2 zoning. But in order to get there, on the parking spaces, it needs to be a dash-5,” said Semerling. “That’s fine, and the neighborhood supports that.”

“Speaking for myself: I’ve been a proponent of this building,” said Duggan. “We’re not going to see any residential anytime soon and Belmont is a commercial street if there ever was one…This would improve the character of the neighborhood, in my opinion.”

The developer, MedProperties, a Chicago-based development group, has built and owns a number of properties in the Chicago area, including one in Six Corners.

The SLVN meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 12 at 7 p.m. in the basement of St. Alphonsus Church, 1429 W. Wellington.

The 1325 W. Belmont project is expected to go before the Chicago Planning Commission in the next month, after which it will need to be approved by the City Council Zoning Committee, then the full City Council.

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